Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Peter, 2 Peter 1:5f
In 2 Peter we are admonished to be faithful, good, holy, resilient, loving and thoughtful people. I mention this because I have yet to find the passages urging us to be angry, loud, self-righteous and defensive. As recipients of the grace of Jesus we are positioned to be hopeful, winsome, loving and courageous. There is no reason for fear. Jesus is risen. He will rule and reign forever and ever. Jesus can be the non-anxious presence so many around you need.
Happy?: Harvard’s longitudinal study on happiness has been tracking nearly 800 people (and their descendants) for over 80 years. What have they learned? Several things, such as money does not buy happiness. This is not new, but it is so consistently believed that it bears repeating. What does? A life filled with friends, family and meaningful work. In her interview with former Australian PM John Anderson, Mary Eberstadt summarizes her study of history and sociology this way: Want to be happy? Turn off your phone; avoid porn; call a friend and go to church.
Against Books: In a recent Atlantic article, Thomas Chatterton Williams argues that “one of the more disturbing things” Kanye West has ever said is, “I am a proud non-reader of books…” Williams goes on to argue that, as reprehensible as Ye’s anti-Semitic tirades are, they should not cause us to overlook his anti-book stance, for it says something distressing about this cultural moment. And then, to advance his point, he quotes other proud non-readers – such as Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) and Sean McElwee, the 30-year-old founder of Data for Progress. Both say silly things such as, “I’m very skeptical of books.” Or, “I don’t want to say ‘no book is ever worth reading’, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that.” (I’m tempted to point out that SBF is about to have plenty of time to change his mind, but some might think that a cheap shot so I’ll hold off.)
Remember: 1) You can learn a lot about a person – and about the strength of their argument – by paying attention to how accurately they portray the positions they disagree with; 2) We need to leverage our weak wills to help us establish lasting habits. Once the rut is dug, it’s much easier to stay in it.
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FWIW: Recent scholarship on the Inquisition suggests that during its 350-year span, only about 6,000 people were killed by inquisitors. While wrong and unthinkably horrible, 18 deaths per year does not secure a place on the top ten list of human atrocities. Indeed, “Only 18 Murders Over the Weekend” would make headlines in Chicago.
Without Comment: 1) In the fourth quarter, U.S. credit card debt jumped 18.5% to a record high $930.6B; 2) ChatGPT is the fastest-growing app ever released, reaching 100M users in just two months; 3) He Gets Us, the national campaign “designed to increase the respect and relevance of Jesus,” is spending $20M to run two commercials during the Super Bowl; 4) While many have assumed that opioids were fueling deaths of despair, this study suggests the rise of such deaths may be linked to the decline in church attendance; 5) According to Gallup, trust in pastors peaked in 1985 at 67% and has fallen to an all-time low of 34% today. Clergy now trail nurses (79%), medical doctors (62%), pharmacists (58%), high school teachers (53%), police officers (50%), accountants (41%), and judges (39%). FWIW, they remain ahead of bankers (26%), real estate agents (24%), journalists (23%), lawyers (21%), car salespeople (11%) and members of Congress (9%); 6) According to KPMG, Americans now spend a record high 10% of their income on leisure; 7) 81% of Americans recently said humankind is inherently good; 8) Studies again show that marrying relatively young without living together first results in the most durable marriages; 9) According to Barna, 44% of Americans are now Digital Donors – i.e., they prefer digital forms of giving; 10) The Catholic university in Ohio that offers students 5K off of their tuition if they give up their smart phone, reports students have never felt freer than they do without their phone.
WOTW: In an article about risk, Bob Seawright noted that while “we are fascinated by charismatic megafauna, mosquitos kill more people in one day than sharks kill in 100 years.” I’ll offer kudos to any reader who is able to casually drop charismatic megafauna into a conversation today, but WOTW honors are going to Domain Awareness Gap, which was the phrase used by the Commander of NORAD to describe the U.S. military’s failure to detect previous “Chinese Airships.” I suspect most of us suffer greater risk from China than from mosquitos or charismatic megafauna (which, by the way, refers to large animals, such as lions and great white sharks) but I may be wrong.
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Quotes Worth Requoting: 1) “The reason many kids are addicted to technology is because their parents are.” Kevin Henderson; 2) “Our love grows soft if it is not strengthened by truth, and our truth grows hard if it is not softened by love.” John Stott
Updated Serenity Prayers: In Arnold Kling’s newsletter he offers the following serenity prayer for employees: “Give me the serenity not to whine about problems that are difficult for my organization to fix, the courage to propose constructive solutions for problems that are easy for my organization to fix, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Meanwhile, the managers version reads like this: “Give me the serenity not to get defensive when an employee points out something that we in management are doing wrong, the courage to get rid of an employee who does nothing but whine, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Podcast: Click here to listen to this week’s podcast, in which Dave Moore and I discuss our lists of important books and theologians of the 19th century.
Closing Prayer: O gracious God, I am fully aware that I am unworthy. I deserve to be a brother of Satan and not of Christ. But Christ, your dear Son, died and rose for me. I am his brother. He earnestly desires that I should believe in him, without doubt and fear. I need no longer regard myself as unworthy and full of sin. For this I love and thank him from my heart. Praise be to the faithful Savior, for he is so gracious and merciful as are you and the Holy Spirit in eternity. Amen. (Martin Luther 1483-1546)